Divisions in the Church

By the IXth century Christian Church was established in all known then countries and domains. Such distant countries as Spain, Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia were already Christian. African coast with Carthage and Alexandria were prominent in the life of the Early Church. Egypt is a cradle of the monastic life which was started there in the third century by St. Anthony the Great and St. Pachomy, India and Arabia were added to the Church by the Apostle Bartheldiney and Thomas.

The heresies which appeared in the Church life from time to time and which were condemned by the Ecumenical Councils, still had some followers, but their existence had no significance for the general life of the Church. Nestorians mostly were among Persian Christians, Monophisites-among Armenians and Monophelites remained in Egypt and Abyssinia (Copts).

With the triumphant victory over the heresies the Christian Church was facing a new danger which was threatening from the West and resulted in separation of the Western part of the Church from the United Christendom. The chief cause of such disruption was in the position of Roman Bishops or Popes which they gradually acquired in church and political life. By the rules as expressed in canons of the Ecumenical Councils, Bishops of Rome were equal in power of their office with the other Bishops of the Church, having only a privilege of being first in honor, with those of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem following them. But they claimed more, the headship in the Church.

Political conditions of the time after the triumph of Christianity were favorable to the ascend in power of the Roman Bishops. General unrest among nations and the formation of new kingdoms after the Huns migration put Roman Bishops at the head of the movement for reestablishing frontiers and dominions which only survived in their possessions of the Church in the West.

The Bishops of Rome succeeded in acquiring a large part of Italy and became the actual owners and rulers of it. This was done with the help of Pipin the Short, a military leader who in reward was helped by the Pope to become the King of France and his son after him was crowned by the Pope as the Emperor of France. From then on Popes or Bishops of Rome were looked upon as having a power to make rulers of the countries. To this was added falsification of some papers, which were claiming for Bishops of Rome special power and privileges in the Church (Isidor's Decretalies)

With the Bishops of Rome holding themselves supreme rulers of the Western part of the Church and disregarding canons of the Ecumenical Council, many discrepancies were introduced there in the church practice. The Creed was read with the words "and the Son" in the VIII article. The bread of the holy Eucharist was used unleavened and the Communion was given to the people only by the Holy Body and not by the Holy Blood also.

The teaching of the headship in Church of Roman Bishops and their infallibility, of the celibacy of the clergy, of the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Virgin, on the fasting on Saturdays and other innovations, unknown to the Early Church met favorable approval of the Bishops of Rome and became part in the system of religious instructions in the West.

The differences in practice and ritual admitted into the Church services and teaching by the Western part of the Church were always objected by the Eastern Church. In many cases like concerning the time of celebrating the Easter Day, the controversies and disputes took place between Bishops of Rome or Popes and Patriarchs of the East, when tendencies were shown that Bishops of Rome pre­tended to have the right to decide matters according to their own judgment and not by the established rules of the Church. The Popes claimed the power in the East as they had in the West, but this was always resisted by the Bishops and people, and the IXth and Xth centuries of the Christian History present to us the growing drifting apart of two halves of the Church.

The Popes used every opportunity to install themselves as the infallible rulers of the Church. A sample of this soon came up.

By intrigues and interference of Regend Varda the Patriarch of Constantinople Ignatius was deposed and in his place was elected one most learned and wise official in the Government, Photius. The people and clergy of the Patriarchs were divided by this case-some were siding with Photius and the others with Ignatius, bringing the unrest in the life of the Church. To settle the dispute it was necessary to call a Council in Constantinople and Pope Nicholas I was invited to be present. He sent his two legates. The Council decided in favor of Patriarch Photius, confirming his election, and legates of the Pope signed this decision as being party to it, but the Pope rejected the rulings of the Council and punished his legates, recognized Ignatius as the Patriarch of Constantinople and deposed Photius.

In such instances Patriarch Photius appealed to the other Eastern Patriarchs and succeeded in convicting the Pope before them in his false aspiration to be above the Council (Sobor) at the same time pointing to different innovations which found the place in the Roman Church. The Council (Sobor) , that was held in Constanti­nople, approved the stand of Patriarch Photius and condemned all innovations of the Roman Bishops and their claim for the highest authority in the Church. But this decision brought only strained relations between the East and West and marked the beginning of their separation which finally came in the XIth century, and was very disturbing.

Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Kelluary, very learned man and of exceptional abilities and zeal for the Orthodoxy of the Church, at least pointed to Pope Leo IX the irregularities that were practiced in the churches under his supervision and particularly of the using of unleavened bread for the holy Communion. The ques­tion was much discussed and became very vital in the life of the Church. For its decision was called again a Council at Constanti­nople to which the Pope sent his legates. They presented some arguments to justify this and other innovations of the Roman Church but were not successful in their efforts to prove the truth of them. Failing to uphold the authority of the Pope, they dis- graced themselves with very improper action, which they did at the last divine liturgy they took part in-they put on the holy table a statement, pronouncing the Patriarch. and all who were with him, suspended from the Church. This act of theirs so irritated the people

that the inevitable death would have followed them if it were not for the authorities who prevented the people from killing them. The Council was convoked and condemned the conduct of the Pope's legates and excommunicated them, but the Pope exhonorated them so as to hold himself above the Council. It was in 1054 A. D. and since that year the Roman Church and practically all the West following it, was out of the union with the Eastern Church, through the disobedience to the Church Councils, and remains so up to the present day.

From the XIth century the Western Church not only was re­taining the innovations that came into its life up to that time, but more and more was subject to a new teaching changes in dogmas and worship, which were unknown to the Primitive and Undivided Church of the Ecumenical Councils. Such state of things in the Roman Church brought dissatisfaction to the people and low standard of faith and morals, and was the cause of appearance of Protestantism and breaking from Rome of many Christian com­munities.

The Reformation and Protestant Confessions

After the separation of the Western or Roman part of the Church from the unity with the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, the f

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